Esophagitis - Topic Overview
What is esophagitis?
Esophagitis is irritation or inflammation of the esophagus . The esophagus is the tube that carries food from your throat to your stomach. Esophagitis can be painful and can make it hard to swallow.
What causes esophagitis?
Gastroesophageal reflux disease, or GERD, is the most common cause of esophagitis. When you have GERD, stomach acid and juices flow backward into your esophagus. This can irritate the esophagus.
Other causes include:
A hiatal hernia.
- Medicines that irritate the esophagus, such as:
- Vitamin and mineral supplements, such as vitamin C, iron, and potassium pills.
- Infection. People who have a weak immune system are more likely to get esophagitis. This includes people with HIV, diabetes, or kidney problems, as well as older adults and people who take steroid medicine.
- Certain diseases that make it hard to swallow, such as scleroderma.
Allergies, often food allergies, especially to seafood, milk, nuts, soy, or eggs.
What are the symptoms?
Common symptoms of esophagitis include:
- Pain when you swallow.
- Trouble swallowing food or liquids.
Chest pain (may be similar to the pain of a heart attack).
- A cough.
Sometimes it also causes:
How is esophagitis diagnosed?
Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and past health. He or she may do tests such as:
- An endoscopy. During this test, the doctor puts a thin, flexible tube down your throat to look at your esophagus. This test also lets the doctor get a sample of the cells to test for infection. Sometimes a small piece of tissue is removed for a biopsy. A biopsy is a test that checks for inflammation or cancer cells.
- A barium swallow. This is an X-ray of the throat and esophagus. Before the X-ray, you will drink a chalky liquid called barium. Barium coats the inside of your esophagus so that it shows up better on an X-ray.